Riddle of 'God particle' could be solved by 2012: CERN (Update)

May 17, 2011 by Richard Ingham
The Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator operated by European Organization for Nuclear Research near Geneva. Physicists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) say they believe that by the end of 2012 they will be able to determine whether a theorised particle called the Higgs boson, which has unleashed a gruelling decades-long hunt, exists or not.

Physicists said on Tuesday they believed that by the end of 2012 they could determine whether a theorised particle called the Higgs boson, which has unleashed a gruelling decades-long hunt, exists or not.

"I'm pretty confident that towards the end of 2012 we will have an answer to the Shakespeare question for the Higgs boson -- to be, or not to be?" Rolf-Dieter Heuer, director general of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), told a press conference at Britain's Royal Society.

CERN has ordered the world's biggest particle collider to step up the quest to explain mass, one of the greatest puzzles in physics.

The key to this is believed to be the Higgs, a notional sub-atomic particle named after British physicist Peter Higgs who mooted its existence in 1964.

If it is found, one of the last pieces would be set in place in the famous Standard Model, which seeks to bring all the particles and forces in the Universe under a single, unified theory.

"By the end of 2012 we will either discover the Standard Model Higgs Boson, if it exists, or we will rule it out," said Fabiola Gianotti, who is the spokesman for CERN's biggest particle-collider lab, called Atlas.

CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is located in a 27-kilometre (16.9-mile) ring-shaped tunnel 100 metres (325 feet) below ground, straddling the French-Swiss border.

It is designed to accelerate protons to nearly the speed of light and then smash them together in house-sized labs where detectors record the seething sub-atomic debris.

The smashups briefly stoke temperatures 100,000 times hotter than the Sun, fleetingly replicating conditions which prevailed split-seconds after the "Big Bang" that created the Universe 13.7 billion years ago.

In this primordial soup, novel particles may lurk that will resolve mysteries clouding our understanding of fundamental matter, scientists say.

Enigmas include the Higgs -- dubbed "the God particle" for being mysterious yet ubiquitous -- as well as suspected "supersymmetrical" particles that could explain dark matter, which comprises around 23 percent of the Universe.

The first proton collisions at the LHC occurred on September 10, 2008. The smasher then had to endure a 14-month shutdown to fix technical problems.

The LHC recently notched up the biggest-ever energy release from particle collisions, although this is still only half of its design capacity.

It had been due to shut down in early 2012 for work enabling it to crank up to full power.

However, a decision was made several weeks ago to delay closure for a year to help the search for the Higgs, said Gianotti.

The theory behind the Higgs is that mass does not derive from particles themselves.

Instead, mass comes from collisions between particles and a non-matter particle, or boson, called the Higgs. These collisions slow down some particles and give them mass, but other particles experience few collisions or none at all.

Europe and the United States have been jousting for Higgs glory -- and the competition is feverish right now, because the legendary Tevatron collider at Fermilab in Chicago will be shut down for good in 2011.

In late April, rumours circulated like wildfire that CERN had detected the shadow of a Higgs, but this was only a partial, draft result that was leaked on an Internet blog and turned out to be false, said Gianotti.

"It was wrong," she said. "We see no peak and no evidence of a Higgs boson, unfortunately."

Explaining CERN's cautious scrutiny, she said: "Of course we are very keen to share results with the public... it's just that we don't want to produce the wrong results."

Finding the boson would be almost certainly a Nobel-winning exploit, for its discoverers and Higgs himself.

Determining that it does not exist would also be a success, although it would amount to a daunting challenge of the Standard Model, said Heuer.

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User comments : 33

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Gunzo
4 / 5 (4) May 17, 2011
Just having fun here...

Hmmm, end of 2012? Mayan Calendar?
antialias
4.7 / 5 (24) May 17, 2011
The sad thing is that if they rule it out (i.e. if they find nothing) then people will be all up and: "Oh no! All that money wasted for nothing!".

It's hard to explain that negative findings are sometimes as valuable as positive ones when it comes to doing science.
XQuantumKnightX
1.6 / 5 (12) May 17, 2011
antialias, if they rule it out then that means that we have advanced closer to the truth by understanding what is false. Don't trip and fall then never get up to move towards your destination (Negativity is the root of failure). Oh, Gunzo that is funny that it may happen near 12/21/12. What if when we expose the God particle that we invoke it to decay and the bad thing is that what if all God Particles are entangled. We would dissolve at they rate of decay : ( or it will unleash our spirits from the ball and chain of the physical world to a wonderful bliss... Who knows? Mayan's said that the change on 12/20/12 could be very good or very bad...
Turritopsis
1.4 / 5 (27) May 17, 2011
The sad thing is that if they rule it out (i.e. if they find nothing) then people will be all up and: "Oh no! All that money wasted for nothing!".

It's hard to explain that negative findings are sometimes as valuable as positive ones when it comes to doing science.


No it isn't. Ever get checked for STI's? Negative findings are sometimes preferred. That alone is example enough to show that negative findings can be more valued than positive ones.

If the Higgs is not found the standard model would be replaced. A new standard model would emerge. Simple as that.

Quit making assumptions and claiming them as real. You're like a religious nut.
PaulieMac
5 / 5 (20) May 17, 2011
The sad thing is that if they rule it out (i.e. if they find nothing) then people will be all up and: "Oh no! All that money wasted for nothing!".

It's hard to explain that negative findings are sometimes as valuable as positive ones when it comes to doing science.


No it isn't. Ever get checked for STI's? Negative findings are sometimes preferred. That alone is example enough to show that negative findings can be more valued than positive ones.

If the Higgs is not found the standard model would be replaced. A new standard model would emerge. Simple as that.

Quit making assumptions and claiming them as real. You're like a religious nut.


No, antiAlias was right. I've seen many instances of the reaction he describes many times on this - and other - sites.
antialias
5 / 5 (15) May 17, 2011
I've even seen it in my scientific career. Scientists are sometimes loathe to publish negative results - even though the community can benefit immensely from them. I can understand it. It's not a nice feeling to hold a presentation on something that didn't work. There's always the nagging suspicion you did something obviously stupid - even though you KNOW that is probably not the case.

Such publications are valuable because they can keep you from duplicating work that you would have otherwise not known about.

Even 'science-managers' often have a problem accepting negative results since at some point they have to answer to bureaucrats. And THEY most definitely will not understand something like: "We tried it and found nothing - we need a bigger machine to try it at different energy values".
Turritopsis
3.1 / 5 (9) May 17, 2011
"We tried it and found nothing - we need a bigger machine to try it at different energy levels"

And just how do you think the LHC came to be?
NameIsNotNick
5 / 5 (4) May 17, 2011
I've even seen it in my scientific career.

Of course you have.... humans have a cognitive bias towards the positive that we must always be wary of.
Turritopsis
1 / 5 (5) May 17, 2011
The Higgs boson is produced by charge. When charge disperses so does the Higgs boson. 14 TeV is calculated to be energy enough for charge dispersion and 40 million frames per second (capture speed) is calculated to be quick enough to capture a glimpse of the fleeting boson.

That being said, for full charge dispersion to take place infinite energy is required, otherwise the Higgs boson divides along with charge (as a cause of charge dispersion) producing massive subatomic particles. The Higgs boson will be visible if we crack protons hard enough for their radiation to be pure energy (light) with no massive particle production (other than the remaining boson).

For infinite energy infinite speed (relative) is required. This is impossible for us to replicate so instead we are equipped with fast capture technology to capture the tell tale signs of the elusive Higgs boson. We are trying to indirectly find the Higgs boson at the LHC.
Turritopsis
3 / 5 (2) May 17, 2011
The LHC is not the end all in particle physics but it just may be powerful enough to prove our theories on mass.
Mahal_Kita
5 / 5 (2) May 17, 2011
Oh, Gunzo that is funny that it may happen near 12/21/12. What if when we expose the God particle that we invoke it to decay and the bad thing is that what if all God Particles are entangled. We would dissolve at they rate of decay : ( or it will unleash our spirits from the ball and chain of the physical world to a wonderful bliss... Who knows? Mayan's said that the change on 12/20/12 could be very good or very bad...


Ah.. Perhaps SETI will make it's hit "WOW!"

Off topic slightly, but hey..
Chris_from_UK
not rated yet May 17, 2011
As a layman what I don't understand is how they can know 100% that the particle DOESN'T exist just because they haven't detected it? If it's just a theory surely there will be an argument to say that they may need even more powerful collisions?
Recovering_Human
4.8 / 5 (11) May 17, 2011
Because it's a theory and it defines the particle with certain assertions. If those assertions are proven false, then the particle must not exist. Sure, another unknown particle might still exist, but it wouldn't be the Higgs as currently defined.
macsglen
5 / 5 (5) May 17, 2011


If the Higgs is not found the standard model would be replaced. A new standard model would emerge. Simple as that.

Simple as THAT??!!
Methinks that replacing the Standard Model wouldn't be simple . . .

One way or another, though, determining the existence (or not) of the Higgs is definitely important.

Oh, and Gunzo -- that was the first thing I thought of.
Johannes414
1 / 5 (17) May 17, 2011
"Determining that it does not exist would also be a success..."

Imagine the arrogance. Without the Higgs, the standard model would be a Hoax. A model that has one of its most prominent predictions falsified must be completely rejected.
El_Nose
3.5 / 5 (2) May 17, 2011
Okay -- Question for you far thinkers and scifi enthusiasts

so 1) we assert that the Higgs exists... its more like a field or a force than an actual particle right.. so it might be possible to create conditions where this field does not react as heavily with normal matter -- the creation of an inertia dampner *Star Trek -- this is great for cars that are about to collide or go through turns, or even better for launch vehicles and for that matter any vehicle that needs to move -- this would give us the ability to AT LEAST move about the solar system with relative ease -- and the strip mining of the planets could begin in earnest (evil grin)remember even if we could negate all the mass in launch vehicle -- we still could not accelerate past c. -- or maybe we would truely test that theory

but seriously -- what other developments could come from understanding the interaction of matter to a field that creates mass??
epsi00
5 / 5 (9) May 17, 2011
"Determining that it does not exist would also be a success..."

Imagine the arrogance. Without the Higgs, the standard model would be a Hoax. A model that has one of its most prominent predictions falsified must be completely rejected.


even without the Higgs, the standard model cannot be completely rejected because it describes so many things correctly.
Turritopsis
3 / 5 (2) May 17, 2011
"Determining that it does not exist would also be a success..."

Imagine the arrogance. Without the Higgs, the standard model would be a Hoax. A model that has one of its most prominent predictions falsified must be completely rejected.


even without the Higgs, the standard model cannot be completely rejected because it describes so many things correctly.


This is because the theory fits observation. The theory has proven practical application. What we are investigating is the world to theory connection. The theory is applicable to real world but we are trying to marry the two. The Higgs field allows us to calculate and manipulate reality. The Higgs boson let's us create it. That's why it's labeled as the god particle. If you can replicate and reproduce reality without constituents, meaning out of nothing, you rule.

The new standard model (if needed) still will contain all current real world data, only the underlying physics would change.
Johannes414
1.2 / 5 (9) May 17, 2011
You are right. It did indeed predict the existence of some other particles correctly. We will give it a grace period during which the scientific establishment will no doubt press for an even bigger ring of magnets to be constructed using tax payer money.
Megadeth312
5 / 5 (1) May 17, 2011
If the Higgs is not found the standard model would be replaced. A new standard model would emerge. Simple as that.


This can only be said by someone who really doesn't know anything about the standard model, replacing it would be a monumental task.

Akin to replacing Newtonian physics with Quantum Mechanics.

Finding the higgs would mean confirming the last significant piece of our most comprehensive theory, but the reality is that ruling it out would reveal more about the nature of the universe, though deciphering that meaning would prove extremely difficult.

Personally, I'd have to lean towards the idea that it does exist, perhaps I am just hopeful for the relative convenience. However, if history is a guide, as it often is, they will find no such particle. It is so very often that one the verge great discovery, only questions are revealed.
antialias
5 / 5 (4) May 17, 2011
This is because the theory fits observation. The theory has proven practical application.

Which is the entire point of scietific theories. We try to find theories that model what we detect and have some predictive power. The better it fits and the greater the predictive power the better the theory.

There is no "wordl to theory" connection. You're saying that science is searching for some sort of ultimate truth. No. We don't do that. We search for what WORKS. No more. No less.

The only model that would truly predict reality in all its particulars is reality itself. The idea of a "theory of everything" by which the universe can be 100& predicted went out the window with quantum physics and the Uncertainty principle (and Gödel's proof of incompleteness).
dirk_bruere
1 / 5 (2) May 17, 2011
If no radical new physics comes from the LHC there will not be a successor built.
Dug
1 / 5 (4) May 17, 2011
"Because it's a theory and it defines the particle with certain assertions. If those assertions are proven false, then the particle must not exist. Sure, another unknown particle might still exist, but it wouldn't be the Higgs as currently defined."

Exactly my position on religions and the existence of a god - not proven by any specific religious treatise, but not dis-proven conceptually, so something might possibly (but not probably) exist. Like with the Higgs boson - god particle, without better, accurate, reproducible and verifiable description of how it works - it can't much matter until you do have that proof.
anadish
1 / 5 (6) May 17, 2011
Can Higgs boson explain momentum, inertia and moment of inertia? Can it explain gyroscopic effects? Can it explain dark matter? No. The folks at LHC have now set themselves a deadline. But can there be a deadline in such matters? Only, if you already have some knowledge of something? May be, they know that the fundamental functioning of gravity has already been understood? So, they are now working on an exit plan after the USPTO screened my application for two months under secrecy review. Quite probable that LHC got a whiff of what was brewing at the USPTO. To put the matters straight, the actual discovery of gravitys exact mechanism along with that of dark matter has already taken place, way back in autumn 2010. I know from my theoretical understanding that it is impossible to find any traces of Higgs boson as a quantum particle in the Hadron collider, neither can it show the existence of dark matter. Some details of my discovery of how gravitation exactly works are on my site.
Magnette
not rated yet May 18, 2011
Without meaning to derail the thread could somebody explain to me, just an engineer & not a physicist, how they will recognize the Higgs Boson should the experiment be successful?
How will they know it's the Higgs and not something else, does it potentially have defining characteristics?
Ethelred
5 / 5 (5) May 18, 2011
(Negativity is the root of failure).
Lets see that would make failure the square of negativity. And if you square a negative you get the same result as squaring a positive so we can logically conclude that positivity is the OTHER root of failure.

The really odd thing is that matches reality to a fair degree. Too much of either increases the odds of failure.

Ethelred
frajo
4 / 5 (4) May 18, 2011
The idea of a "theory of everything" by which the universe can be 100& predicted went out the window with quantum physics and the Uncertainty principle (and Gödel's proof of incompleteness).
Goedel's two incompleteness theorems are mathematical results that have shaken the foundations of mathematics as they mean that the holy grail of mathematics, the Hilbert Program to find a complete and consistent set of axioms for all of mathematics, does not exist.
But these incompleteness theorems cannot be generalized to have meaning beyond mathematics.

Unfortunately, Goedel's popularity is based on the confusion of the mathematical meaning of the word "incompleteness" with its colloquial meaning.
lengould100
not rated yet May 18, 2011
I'm betting a) they don't find the Higgs. b) the required adjustment will be to our current theories of gravity.
Pyle
5 / 5 (3) May 18, 2011
@frajo: This is apparently your pet peeve:
But these incompleteness theorems cannot be generalized to have meaning beyond mathematics.

You are, of course, wrong. They can in fact be extended to other disciplines. Programming is one of the most important areas that it has been developed most formally. The funny thing is that there can be no "incompleteness proofs" in other disciplines because of their vagueness when compared to mathematics, making their incompleteness inherent in them and pointing it out trivial. When the rules of other disciplines get more rigorous and the myriad variables are identified then we will run into Godel in many more places. Think Asimov's psychohistory.

Regarding the post you responded to, I agree with you, however. The uncertainty principle really has nothing to do with Godel's incompleteness and this application was incorrect. Godel's proofs really provide no reason why there can't be a TOE.
daywalk3r
3.9 / 5 (15) May 18, 2011
The idea of a "theory of everything" by which the universe can be 100% predicted went out the window with quantum physics and the Uncertainty principle (and Gödel's proof of incompleteness).
Not so entirely true, as the idea of being able to make 100% precise predictions does not necessarily corelate with the idea of the existence of an "ultimate" model of the Universe (aka ToE).

The Uncertainty "principle" (albeit being an extreme over-simplification, but a correct one) gets just the 100% precise predictions part out the window. You would need infinite processing power to make an infinit. precise prediction.

Gödel's incompleteness theorems are a nice example of the limits of our understanding, however, the "system" we live in is not static. I leave it to the readers to make their own conclusion out of it :-)

Yes, we will probably never know the ultimate answers to question like "Why there is an Universe?". But that should not hinder us from discovering how it actually works..
Pyle
not rated yet May 18, 2011
Gödel's

Show off.
antialias
not rated yet May 19, 2011
Yes, we will probably never know the ultimate answers to question like "Why there is an Universe?".

Because it probably is the wrong sort of question to ask. "Why" implies causality which implies a well formed temporal direction. Neither of which is a given at the point where we can say the universe came into existence.

The entire concept of questions may be inadequate for the purpose as all types of questions require this type of context. (No, this is not an opening for religios/theological explanations. They face the exact same dilemma)
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) May 22, 2011
(Negativity is the root of failure).
Lets see that would make failure the square of negativity. And if you square a negative you get the same result as squaring a positive so we can logically conclude that positivity is the OTHER root of failure.

The really odd thing is that matches reality to a fair degree. Too much of either increases the odds of failure.

Ethelred
A fair example of some of the many problems encountered with word math but this does not seem to bother philosophers in the least. I gave all my philo books to the library today. Bye-bye Hegel, Kant, Hume, schoepenhauer, Plato, neoplato, wittgenstein, calvin and hobbes, etc. I kept nietzsche tho-
t.. so it might be possible to create conditions where this field does not react as heavily with normal matter -- the creation of an inertia dampner
Not only Roddenberry explored this concept:
http://en.wikiped...ss_drive

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